Rare Engines at Portland Show

The 2016 Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show was filled with rare and unusual engines.

| May 2017

If you’re interested in rare and unusual engines, the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show in Portland, Indiana, is the place to be. The 2016 show included a breathtaking exhibit of Kansas City Lightning engines in the ATIS area (see Farm Collector, March 2017), but one-of-a-kind engines filled every corner of the grounds.

Produced for Moline Pump Co.

Paul Frasier, Carleton, Michigan, knew he had a rare engine when a friend gave him a 1903 3 hp Eli engine, but he kept his feet solidly on the ground.

“I knew the cylinder would either make or break the restoration,” he says. “If the inside was cracked, it would have to be sleeved and I’d have to put ports in, and that would have cost too much for me at that time.” As it turned out there was a lot of rust and pits, but no visible cracks.

Paul, who showed the 2-cycle Eli at the 2016 Portland show, was lucky to connect with John Davidson, Bristol, Wisconsin, owner of the oldest known Eli. Paul took measurements of parts, including an igniter, on John’s engine, and on another Eli owned by a friend, and made replacements.

The engine was produced under contract for Moline Pump Co. to be sold with that company’s pumps. Although the engine’s tag says, “made exclusively by Moline Pump Co.,” Paul says the engine was in fact designed by a man named Parker. Eli engines were produced in sizes ranging from 2-7 hp.

The engine’s tank is a clone of an original. “John Wanat made the tank, and I did the lettering,” Paul says. “I made a template and cut letters out with a blade. It was pretty painstaking work. Then I covered the tank with masking tape and used the template to cut out the letters.”